Rain, motor woes and an obsessive daughter taught Simon Tennant 'Hakana Matata'
IT SHOULD have been a quiet fortnight in the pine forests South of Bordeaux, with the bonus of long golden beaches nearby, the first long holiday together for some time. What followed was not exactly as anticipated. When we arrived at the cottage the blue skies of the North had changed to cloud and drizzle.

It rained all night, and continued the next day so we decided to visit a town further down the coast. But when we pulled into the seafront car park the car stopped working. The Green Flag man, with trailer, responded to our phone call after two hours. We didn't need the trailer, but did need a new battery which, fortunately, he had. We then had to follow him to his garage, an hour away, to pay by credit card.

The rain continued, night and day, so we went to see the countryside and local historic towns. The countryside consisted of millions of pine trees, the nearest historic town was 90 minutes away. Lost new contact lens.

The skies cleared in the afternoon and we visited the beach, returning after an enjoyable two hours to find the car had been broken into, the video camera stolen and the door broken.

A Citroen dealer in the nearest large town repaired the lock. That was when we discovered the credit card had been left at the garage where we bought the battery. We decided to collect this next day and returned to the cottage.

On entering the village, the car ceased to work completely and we had to push it into a nearby garage where we discovered it didn't need petrol. The Green Flag man returned with his trailer. This time we did need it. The cam belt had broken and the pistons were probably ruined. Conservative estimate pounds 700 approx and three days. As our ferry was in three days, we arranged an emergency loan and hired a car.

In the morning, in the rain, we cycled twelve miles to the next village to collect the hire car. We then drove two hours to the first garage to collect the credit card then back to the latest garage where we learned that we were lucky (!) because neither pistons nor cylinders were damaged. The garage had not only replaced the cam belt but all other belts. We took the hire car back.

The banshee wail from under the bonnet began when we got our own car to the cottage. We returned to the garage in the morning to discover that the new fan belt was defective. Another was fitted.

As this was the last day, we decided to visit a local patisserie for French cakes, after going back to the cottage to take the washing in out of the rain. A car pulled up, its passengers suspiciously eyeing our cottage. They turned out to be the next occupants, who had arrived a day early. We didn't feel we could send them to a hotel, so we re-arranged the cottage to accommodate an extra couple and two (separate) elderly parents.

Finally we left, driving for seven hours in scorching heat to friends in the North where the weather had been glorious for two weeks.

During all that time our daughter would only let us play two cassettes, one of which was the Lion King. From it we learned the very valuable philosophy of 'Hakana Matata', i.e. "no worries" or "when bad things happen - there is nothing you can do about it!"

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